If the U.S. can’t produce an educated workforce, jobs will go overseas in search of skilled workers. Chester Finn cites a speech by Alan Greenspan on the role of education in the global economy. Finn writes:
The fed chairman observed that the greatest source of wealth creation in America (after the rule of law) is “the level of knowledge and skill of the population.” He pointed to the mismatch between the rising human-capital needs — the knowledge and skill requirements — of a successful modern economy and the woefully low knowledge/skill level of much of the American workforce. Then he made a powerful case for K-12 education reform.
. . . After praising community colleges, he explained that our key problem isn’t too few people with postsecondary degrees. Rather, we must look farther “back through our education system. Many of our students languish at too low a level of skill and the result is an apparent excess of supply [of low-skill workers] relative to a declining demand. These changing balances are most evident in the failure of real wages at the lower end of our income distribution to rise during the past quarter century.
In the 20th century, our education system adapted to the changing demands of the economy, Greenspan says. The 21st century requires more knowledgeable workers with the ability to learn new skills for new jobs.